BTO migration blog

Spring and autumn are exciting times for anyone who watches birds. Here on this blog we will make predictions about when to expect migrant arrivals and departures, so that you know when and where to see these well-travelled birds.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Autumn is here

One Swallow doesn’t make a summer but small flocks on the move at this time of the year are a sure sign that autumn is here. On days when the weather permits some of the staff at the BTO’s headquarters in Thetford, Norfolk, meet in the grounds during morning and afternoon coffee time. This week, the overhead northerly movement of small flocks of Swallows has been a feature. Swallows heading north at this time of the year seems a little wrong, surely they should be making their way south, flying to warmer climes for the winter?

This northerly movement is often observed in other parts of the country and a possible explanation is that these birds are heading to a communal roost that is to the north of their favoured feeding areas. However, some of these birds might be heading north to the north Norfolk coast before turning and following the coast south – the majority of bird movement is observed along the coast. It seems that birds are reluctant to just head out to sea and will move along the coast before they have no choice but to cross the sea.

Swallow by John Harding

This week has seen a good number of birds drifting across the North Sea – Wrynecks were reported from at least 70 different locations, an impressive 40 Red-backed Shrikes, 25 Icterine Warblers and 20 Barred Warblers were also seen around Britain. All of these birds will have spent the summer in northern and eastern Europe and are making their way to Africa for the winter.  There has also been a flavour of the south this week. A record flock of Cattle Egrets arrived on the south coast and settled for a short time just north of Christchurch, Dorset, before heading off north up the Avon valley, and at least six Hoopoes were reported around the country.

Common migrants have also been well represented and numbers of Wheatears on the move have swelled, joining the ever growing number of flycatchers and warblers that are being seen at coastal watchpoints such as Hengistbury Head and Portland, both in Dorset.

Offshore, skuas and terns have kept migration watchers busy but with the wind now coming from the north, and forecast to do so for most of next week, we might see the arrival of some of our winter visitors during the next few days. The first flocks of Pink-footed Geese, Redwings and Fieldfares could well be on the cards, and who knows, we might get an early rarity from the far north, possibly a Brunnich’s Guillemot?

Brunnich's Guillemot by Edmund Fellowes

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